By Mike O’Brien
Group A reaches its climax and all four teams could still qualify for the quarter finals. Only a three point gap between bottom team Greece and top side Russia means that Russia could lose their game with Greece and not qualify depending on how Czech Republic v Poland finishes. If this is too happen then we will surely be in for a great day of football.
Heading into the final game
Going into the final round of games the table reflects exactly what I predicted pre- tournament. Heavy favourite Russia are all set to go through as group winners but a loss to bottom side Greece would bring them level on points. But as can be seen on the table above, Greece would have to win by three clear goals to overtake the Russians on goal difference.
The game in Wroclaw between Czech republic and co hosts Poland will be the decider on who joins Russia in the quarter finals I feel. If it ends all square then Poland know they have no hope of qualification whereas the Czech’s would have to wait for the outcome of the Russia V Greece game to find out their fate. This game is the very definition of winner takes all because if there is a winner they are automatically through to the quarter finals.
Czech Republic V Poland
Czech republic bounced back from their crushing defeat to Russia on the opening day last time out with victory over Greece. The overall result however didn’t tell the story of the game. The Czech’s two goals came very early on and some horrendous defending by Greece had everyone thinking that it was going to be the next romp of Euro 2012 but the Czech’s took their foot off the gas and the game became very stale. Chelsea Goalkeeper Petr Cech has been having a torrid time at Euro 2012 after he received a lot of criticism for many of Russia’s goals in game one and the Greece game certainly never helped his cause as he gifted Greece a way back into the game by failing to control what should have been a fairly routine catch of the ball. The Czech’s looked like world beaters at the start of the match, but after they went 2-0 up they reverted back to mediocrity and proved that if they should qualify, whoever they face from group B shouldn’t be too worried.
Co hosts Poland have played some impressive football during this tournament, but they appear to be a one half team. In their opener the first half against Greece was some of the best football we’ve seen in Euro 2012 so far but their second half display was simply awful. Compare that to the Russia game where they were run ragged in the first half and at 1-0 down came out swinging in the second and earned a 1-1 draw. If Poland could find a way to play consistently over 90 minutes they will be a threat to anyone they play should they qualify.
This is an interesting one with both sides having shown that they can play some very tidy football but neither side having done it for a whole game. I predict a draw from this one, even though I don’t like predicting draws this certainly has all the makings of one.
Greece V Russia
Greece for me, have looked like one of the worst teams in this tournament at times. In their first game against Poland they looked awful until Salpingidis equalised then they went on the attack and looked threatening for about 10 minutes missing a penalty in that time. But that was it; they never seemed likely to find a second goal after that. Against Czech republic they offered barely any defence in the first 20 minutes and seemed content to just get through 90 minutes until Cech’s error. But even then, they pressed but never really threatened. I will be very surprised if Greece qualify and if they do it will be a shame because behind Russia I feel the other stand out team in this group is Poland.
Russia are sitting pretty atop of Group A but mustn’t get complacent. They played brilliantly against the Czech’s and did well to push Poland back but the second 45 in that game is the only time Russia appear to have been outmatched. They’re the heavy favourites in this one and if star man Alan Dzagoev can continue his impressive run of form then I see no reason Russia should struggle to qualify for the quarter finals.
On the whole this should be a Russian victory. Greece for me are one of the worst teams in the tournament and I can’t see them gaining the three points they need in order to be in with a chance of qualification. One thing that is certain about this game, Russia will score first, they clearly start games brilliantly and Greece are slow starters so the likelihood of Russia finding the net first is very promising indeed.